February 9, 2014 by kittynh
My friend Don Lacey kindly offered to help out with the blog this week. Here is his take on the Nye-Ham debate and also a good personal account of the very closed minded education he received as a child from the Catholic church. I enjoy Don’s articles because I am writing a skeptic blog, but my own interests are not in the religious debate so I feel far from qualified in writing about this truly important issue. The creep of “intelligent design” into our classrooms, and also the prejudice against Atheists, has to be addressed. Thank you Don.
by Donald Lacey
Here’s another attempt to unravel a frequently heard argument—Atheists are closed minded. Many Atheists in this country have been raised Christian or at the very least, been exposed to Christianity from a very young age. Young children have little choice in the matter and are born with an open mind. They are taught what’s important while being guided through their early years. Hopefully, they’ll come out the other side safe and self-sufficient.
Many closed minded people are doing quite well because being open minded is not necessary for survival and success. Religion is responsible for making most people closed minded and stop asking questions. Religious training tells children, “God is the answer so there’s no need to ask questions.”
In Catholic training classes, the nuns gave us specific questions that we had to memorize along with the matching answers. In many cases, they didn’t make logical sense, even to very young children. They were all included in the Baltimore Catechism. Here are two examples—Q: Who made us? A: In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. Q: Why did God make us? A: God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven. In order to be confirmed, I had to learn all 187 questions and their associated answers from a stack of mimeographed sheets. So I did. Training was conducted every Sunday and we were given homework assignments, tested frequently, and rewarded for good performance but we were also shamed for poor performance so I wanted to do well. If I asked another question or said that the answer doesn’t make sense, I got to see just how cranky a nun can get!
At the end of one of Father Guido Sarducci’s (Don Novello) routines, “Life is a job” (vitum est laborum), he gives a pretty good explanation for that crankiness. In any case, many Atheists at one time were Christian and believed or at least accepted religious teachings but somehow survived the process with a mind open enough to be changed by additional information. Therefore, they changed their minds.
The definition of an “open mind” is one that can be changed by compelling evidence and an Atheist was brought up religious but the Atheist has changed his mind about religion therefore he has an open mind. On the other hand, someone that tries to convince others of the truthfulness of his beliefs but openly states that there is absolutely nothing that can change his mind is therefore someone with a closed mind and quite frankly someone not worth talking to.
A recent example of such a character is Ken Ham. He is the president/CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis-U.S. and the struggling Creation Museum. His mission in building the museum and creating Answers in Genesis-U.S. was to convince others that the Biblical accounts of the creation of the universe is literally (or naturally) true. Recently, Mr. Ham debated with Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and had there not been people with open minds looking on, it would have been a complete waste of time. While most observers had their minds made up by previous experiences, hopefully there were those people that benefited from the juxtaposition of two world views: one scientific and the other based on faith. One hundred and sixty five minutes of debate can be summed up with one audience question addressed to both Ken and Bill, “What if anything would make you change your mind?” Ken Ham answered—nothing. Bill answered—one piece of good evidence would do it. The arguments about who won the debate will continue but there is no question as to which one had the open mind.